Monday, November 15, 2010

Not Another TSA Rant

Hold on to something ...I just had a very intelligent discussion with a manager (I will keep her name anonymous, I'd like her not to lose her job for talking to me) of the TSA shift here at O'Hare airport.

While you catch your breath ... let me reiterate how much I loathe the invasion of privacy and the scales of privacy vs. (actual) security being tipped way askew...

So here's what happened...

I was given the "sir, step over here into this machine" line from a woman who had the demeanor of a rabid coyote, to which I replied "No thanks, I'll opt-out".

After the customary 10 people screamed back and forth "We have an opt-out!" ... they told me to wait in the middle of the screening area, and since I insisted on keeping an eye on my bags (I reminded them of the public announcement playing on infinite loop) they had one of the gentlemen (clearly a very nice guy) take my stuff, put it aside and stand over it while I was frisked.  This was interesting...

The guy giving me the "pat down" told me he was going to use the back of his hand in certain areas but never mentioned the "dirty uncle" treatment (front of hand on your junk) ... so I was left wondering.  He performed what I actually felt was a rather thorough pat-down, checking inside my belt loops, my armpits, and all the other usual places a wacko would try and hide something illegal.

He did not do the "dirty uncle" ... and when he was done, was polite and said "We're done, thanks" and walked away.

I gathered up my stuff and walked off but I did feel compelled to walk over to the shift supervisor and ask her why it was that when I opted out of the strip-search machine I didn't even have to go through the metal detector.  She didn't know, and even told me that "Yes, that is a little weird, but I don't have the authority to question the all-powerful policy."  I sensed sarcasm in her voice... I liked that she was skeptical and a bit of a cynic.

We had a great conversation for a couple of fleeting minutes about the process that they go through here at O'Hare and how they actively avoid doing the dirty uncle pat-down ... and don't actually use the strip-search machine on everyone ...only the equivalent of the "random additional screening" that we used to see - remember that?

Then we talked about National Opt-Out Day (Nov. 24th) and she acknowledged that while it wasn't necessarily something she objected to (whaaaa?) it would muck up air travel and snag long lines and cause delays if enough people did it.  We did come to an agreement that the balance between trying to keep the passengers secure and being totally invasive has gone too far into the invasive zone.  Odd for a TSA Manager - wouldn't you say?  I mean, this woman was intelligent, cynical and even questioned authority!

All in all, a positive experience.  For all the shit we give O'Hare Int'l airport about the countless delays and other crap ... the TSA here isn't too brutally invasive - and we know they could be.

Good luck, share your experiences ...and don't submit to thuggery!

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